These two words are often used interchangeably and the greatest difference I can find between the two is "choose" for choosing multiple items from a set, and "select" for selecting a single item from a set. Are there other qualifiers to consider and is this singular/plural distinction on the right track?

So, really, what is the difference between the two, if any?

  • 1
    I don't think so. There is really nothing strange in the thought of "selecting three items" from a list (for instance). The only distinction that comes to mind is context: one might be less inclined to say they "selected" the left fork in the road, but this has nothing to do with quantity...
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 16:40
  • horatio, if nothing to do with quantity, then what makes the distinction between the two, if any?
    – user5163
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 16:48
  • I would rather not say, because I haven't thought much about it (which is why I didn't make an answer). My instinct is that they can be used interchangeably.
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 16:53
  • 1
    I do agree with what others have said, but I would add that select can imply some notion of competition, while choose does not. For example, I would say “Harvard selects the best students based on essays”, and substituting chooses in that sentence would look bad.
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 19:27
  • Btw: this question is tagged word-choice
    – Jo So
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 1:34

3 Answers 3


Select means to carefully choose; it also means to use a mouse or keystrokes to mark something on a computer screen.

In both the cases, the number of things chosen or marked does not influence which verb is used.

  • 2
    I think this is indeed the case, selecting something seems more well thought over then choosing something. Choosing seems more random then selecting. Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 17:25

In addition to what you said,

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Select is more formal than choose, and in everyday English, people usually say choose rather than select.

Also there's a homophone for choose which is chews.

According to Merriam-Webster

  • choose: to have a preference for or to select freely and after consideration

  • select: to choose (as by fitness or excellence) from a number or group

I checked some other sources. In all of them the difference between select and choose is not considered important. so I think maybe it's a better idea not to be fussy about it!

  • note also that "a choice [item]" means "a [really good] [premium] [excellent] [carefully selected] item" which (again) points to a very strong similarity in meaning and usage.
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 17:19
  • Choose—comes from Old English, ceosan, while—select—is from Latin. Personally, I follow Fowler’s advice: prefer the Saxon word to the Romance.
    – Wulfgang
    Commented May 4 at 13:11

Selection is done after evaluation of some qualities of something.

Choose is done based on self interest and preference about something.

  • 2
    This answer can be improved by citing facts and references that demonstrate its correctness.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 13:53